Emergency management instructor appointed to team to examine Katrina response

CULLOWHEE – Jeffrey Crane, who teaches online emergency management classes in Western Carolina University’s department of applied criminology, has been appointed to a national leadership team to guide the federal government’s public health and medical services recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Assembled by the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office and the Office of Mass Casualty Planning within the Department of Health and Human Services, the four-person team is working with representatives of numerous federal agencies and relief organizations to develop objectives for the lengthy process of recovery from the massive storm.

Crane and other emergency management professionals met earlier this month in Washington, D.C., to help coordinate federal assistance to state and local response to health and medical situations along the Gulf Coast.

“This incident is unprecedented in many ways and requires flexibility in the objectives of the recovery efforts,” said Crane. “While the strategic objectives should remain constant, the operational objectives may continue to change depending on pressing medical issues, the priorities that are set in the field, and the ever-changing nature of the aftermath of a major natural disaster.”

The group is scheduled to meet every two to four weeks during the next six months (the short-term recovery process), and then bi-monthly during the ensuing two years (the long-term recovery phase).

“We hope that when our work is done, we will have helped streamline some of the response and recovery processes and removed some of the roadblocks that can pop up when federal, state and local agencies converge on the scene of a large-scale disaster,” Crane said. “We know that mistakes were made after Katrina. They are made after every disaster. It’s our job now to be sure that we learn from them for the next time.”

Crane joined Western’s emergency management program faculty this past spring. His projects have included the development of Miami-Dade County’s mass catastrophe incident system along with a mass casualty incident plan that can be activated during health emergencies involving more than 100 people. He also is overseeing the rewriting of several county emergency management plans for Florida counties affected by the 1994 hurricane season, and the delivery of statewide bioterrorism exercises for Alabama and Louisiana. His recent research includes the “Assessment of the Community Healthcare Providers’ Ability and Willingness to Respond to a Bioterrorism Attack in Florida.”